Born in New York in 1947, David lived and worked as a photographer in Los Angeles. After a photo assignment shooting healthcare in Saigon and Phnom Penh for the WHO in 1990, he moved to Saigon in 1992, where he set up his first bar. Celebrity clientele included Robert DeNiro, Kate Moss, Norman Mailer and plenty of journalists. He set up Q Bar in Bangkok in 1999 and earlier this year opened a new bar called SMALLS with partner Bruno Tanquerel.
What first brought you to Bangkok?
After six-and-a-half years in Saigon, the Vietnamese Government would not renew my visa. No reason given. So I had to start over again and I chose Bangkok to set up my new Q Bar in 1999.
What persuaded you that it was a good place to set up a nightclub?
Remember, this was almost 15 years ago. Bangkok had hotel bars, pubs, beer gardens, go-go bars and Thai clubs that at that time, unlike now, lacked sophistication. No one was bringing in international DJs or much in the way of mixology. There was a hole in the market.
How has the Bangkok’s nightlife changed since then?
It’s changed totally. Following Q Bar, and three years later Bed Supperclub, it took time for things to develop. People were afraid to invest in clubs in Bangkok because the closing times were always changing upon the whims of whichever government was in power. In the last four or five years, there has been an explosion of new clubs and bars of a very high quality. Young Thai entrepreneurs have led the way and now Bangkok has a diverse and thriving nightclub scene.
Do you think people have become more sophisticated in their drinking tastes?
Without a doubt. More availability from different liquor companies and the accompanied training to bartenders, along with the popularity of mixology over flair bartending, was just a matter of time. The days of only ‘black/so’ are over!
You’ve recently set up SMALLS in Sathorn – what’s the concept there?
I sort of hate the ‘concept’ question. My “concept” has always been to provide a great atmosphere for people who want to go out, maybe meet their friends, have excellent drinks serve by a knowledgable and kind staff, get a bite to eat, enjoy the music, etc. That being said, I will say that bars that ofter an atmosphere to engage in a conversation are rare and often, boring. At SMALLS we try and provide a neighbourhood experience that is both cozy and adult. Our music tends to be jazzy/bluesy with live jazz once a week now but most likely will expand to two nights a week.
Which are the most up-and-coming parts of Bangkok?
Well, obviously, I feel the Sathorn area to the river has huge potential. The rents along Sukhumvit have become stupid and as trendy as Thong Lor and Ekamai have become, it’s time to look elsewhere. With Maggie Choo’s, Ku De Ta, U.N.C.L.E., Opus, Eat Me, Vesper, Issaya Siamese Club and the opening of Justin Dunne’s Namsaah Bottling Trust, this area is taking off.
Besides SMALLS, where are your favorite places to drink?
A.J. Boroski Mixology, WTF, Maggie Choo’s, and some funky little places I’m keeping to myself.
Nahm, Gaggan, Opus, Appia, Issaya Siamese Club, Eat Me, Soul Food, Bo-Lan, Enoteca, Zuma, La Monita, La Bottega Di Luca, Isao, Gianni’s, Uncle John’s, Saigon Recipe.
What would you like to change about Bangkok?
Raise the price of taxi meters so drivers can make a living without scamming you or turning you down. Extend nightlife hours to 3am and take police pay-offs out of the equation. Make Bangkok greener. Cut taxes for electric and fuel-efficient cars and buses. More parks and bicycle paths. Better sidewalks that are wheelchairfriendly. Bury the wires under ground. No more billboards and LED screens. Cut taxes on wine and liquor. Now you see why I’m not in charge!